The California Public Utilities Commission is launching a probe into the corporate governance, structure, and operation of Pacific Gas and Electric Company to determine the best course of action for safe electric and gas service in the wake of wildfires that caused widespread destruction in Northern and Southern California, according to a Nov. 15 statement from Michael Picker, President of the PUC. The investigation will form the second phase of an existing proceeding examining the utility’s safety culture. A camp fire which broke out on Nov. 8 in Butte County has already destroyed 150,000 acres and as of Nov. 18 is 65 percent contained, according to the state’s Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. The department recently reported that some of the massive wildfires that occurred last October were caused by trees coming into contact with the company’s power lines. The commission also opened a proceeding to review Southern California Edison’s risk assessment and mitigation phase filing. In September, the state enacted legislation requiring utilities to file wildfire mitigation plans and allowing the commission to pursue enforcement actions for violations. Pacific Gas and Electric is a subsidiary of PG&E Corp. Southern California Edison is a subsidiary of Edison International.
Welcome back to the EnerKnol Pulse! In this edition, California regulators investigate utilities for their role in starting major wildfires that wreaked havoc in the state; Federal regulators approve revisions to ISO New England's power plant retirement rules; The Department of Energy supports the development of advanced coal plants in its 'Coal FIRST' initiative. All of this and more powered by the EnerKnol Platform. Please note that we will not be publishing next week. Happy Thanksgiving from the EnerKnol team!
November 19, 2018
Climate and Green Energy
Grid and Power Markets
Fossil Fuels and Pipelines
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on Nov. 9 approved ISO New England Inc.’s proposal to revise the calculation of the economic life of a generator that seeks to retire or permanently leave the capacity market. The revision establishes that the economic life of such a resource will be the evaluation period that maximizes the net present value of its expected future profit. The grid operator currently requires retirement or permanent de-list bids submitted by a resource to include at least five years of cash flow estimates to explain the bid, which specifies a price at or below which it would not accept a capacity supply obligation. ISO-NE’s market monitor calculates the competitive delist price as the lowest capacity payment at which the generator would be “no worse off by” keeping its capacity obligation. The market monitor recently found that the current calculation – the period for which the net present value of cumulative future expected cash flows is positive – may overstate the true economic life resulting in a higher de-list bid price. ISO-NE said it may not be appropriate to assume that a plant which earned positive cash flows in the earlier years will continue to operate and incur losses as long as cumulative flows are positive, noting that a resource would choose to retire and keep the maximum of the cash flow. The new rules are effective Aug. 10, and will apply to the thirteenth capacity auction to be held in February 2019. Chairman Neil Chatterjee dissented saying that applying the rule for this auction harms market participants who relied on the existing tariff to calculate prices and also expressed concern over when and how the rule against retroactive ratemaking applies.
The U.S. Energy Department is planning to fund competitive research and development of innovative coal generation technologies in the 2019 fiscal year, according to a Nov. 14 announcement. The agency envisions coal plants of the future to be “Flexible, Innovative, Resilient, Small and Transformative” under the new “Coal FIRST” initiative. The move stems from request for information issued in May to develop modular coal-based power plants built with advanced methods to meet the requirements of the evolving electric grid. The department expects the small-scale design to be cheaper, more efficient, low-emitting, and operationally flexible. The agency expressed concerns over the resiliency of electric supply due to coal plant retirement, and underscored that the need for dispatchable generation, ancillary services, and grid reliability open opportunities for advanced coal technologies. In February the department announced funding for carbon capture and transformational coal technologies. The Trump administration has been exploring ways to aid the dwindling coal industry.
Under current and planned policies, global energy demand is expected to grow by over 25 percent to 2040, requiring an annual investment of more than $2 trillion in new energy supply, according to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook published on Nov. 13. The agency said that over 70 percent of global energy investments will be government-driven, underscoring the importance of policy choices to shape the future energy system. The report predicts a renewed period of uncertainty and volatility for oil markets including a supply gap in the 2020s. Conventional oil projects would have to double to meet the continued growth in oil consumption. Growing natural gas demand “erases talk of glut,” the agency notes, with China’s consumption escalating. Although renewables are expected to make up about two-thirds of capacity additions in 2040, the report emphasizes that flexibility should be the cornerstone of future of power markets to address intermittency in supplies. With regard to climate goals, the report calls for a “systematic preference for investment in sustainable energy,” noting that current and under-construction energy infrastructure account for around 95 percent of emissions permitted under international targets. Most emissions related to energy infrastructure are essentially locked-in, with coal-fired plants representing over a third of cumulative locked-in emissions to 2040.
Climate and Green Energy
American Electric Power Company Inc. announced a $33 billion capital investment plan from 2019 through 2023, with 75 percent focused on its transmission and distribution operations, according to a Nov. 11 news release. The plan includes $2.7 billion for new renewable generation, including about $2.2 billion for competitive, contracted projects. The company said the transition to cleaner resource will continue as it pursues an emissions reduction goal of 60 percent by 2030 relative to 2000 levels. AEP intends to add 8.3 gigawatts of wind and solar generation and over 2.6 gigawatts of natural gas generation to its regulated generation fleet by 2030.
Duke Energy Carolinas, a subsidiary of Duke Energy, issued $1 billion in green bonds to finance zero emission projects such as solar and energy storage in North and South Carolina, according to a Nov. 9 press release. The bonds, which mark the company’s first clean energy investment offering, have a weighted average coupon of 3.74 percent between the three-year and 10-year maturities. Duke Energy has committed to reduce emissions by 40 percent by 2030. Over the past decade, the company added about 650 megawatts of built or purchased solar capacity and plans to add another 1.8 gigawatts over the next five years. The transaction comes on the heels of Dominion Energy Inc.’s launch of a green bond offering on Nov. 5 providing $362 million to support 574 megawatts of solar generation.
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection released its final plan to advance in-state solar development, with a goal to achieve a 10 percent increase in solar-powered electricity by 2030 from the current level of less than one percent. The state would have to install about 11 gigawatts of solar capacity to reach the goal, up from 300 megawatts. The plan identifies strategies such as raising the solar carve-out in the alternative portfolio standard, implementing carbon pricing, expanding customer access to capital, adopting uniform siting policies, and providing tax incentives to favor solar deployment. The department said that renewable energy innovations will lower pollution from electricity generation, which accounts for 33 percent of the state’s emissions.
The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Energy Management sees potential for 9.6-gigawatts of offshore wind power in the New York Bight area, an indentation along the Atlantic coast between New Jersey and Long Island, according to a Nov. 14 draft plan. The draft plan includes 478,594 acres of secondary areas, which are more likely to be opposed by the fishing industry, and 315,268 acres of primary areas, which are less contentious and have the potential for roughly 4 gigawatts of offshore wind power. The Bureau plans to announce final wind energy areas in early 2019 and conduct the lease sale in early 2020. Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, recently issued a solicitation for 800 megawatts or more of offshore wind for the state’s large-scale contracts towards meeting the goal of 2,400 megawatts by 2030. The goal supports the state’s Clean Energy Standard which requires half of the state’s electricity to come from renewable energy by 2030. In September, New Jersey launched the largest single-state solicitation for 1,100 megawatts of offshore wind towards meeting the state’s 3,500-megawatt goal by 2030.
The New York Public Service Commission approved the construction and operation of a 126-megawatt utility-scale wind generation project proposed by Cassadaga Wind LLC, a subsidiary of EverPower Wind Holdings Inc., according to a Nov. 15 press release. The commission determined that the developer is financially able to move forward with the project. In January, the New York State Board on Electric Generation Siting and the Environment issued a certificate authorizing development of the facility. The proposal must pass a review under Article 10 adopted in 2011 to streamline the decision-making process for major power generation projects. The project will support the Clean Energy Standard which requires 50 percent of New York’s electricity to come from renewable energy sources like wind and solar by 2030. EverPower Wind Holdings is a subsidiary of Innogy Renewables US LLC.
The U.S. House of Representatives introduced a resolution on Nov. 13 signifying the need for climate action following the United Nations’ special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The report, released last month, found that the average global temperature in the Northern Hemisphere in the last 50-year period has been the warmest of any such period over five centuries. The agency said that limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees – which will be reached in 2040 under current emission rates – is feasible and essential to protect people from the impacts of climate change such as drought and floods. The report underscored that net global emissions must be cut by 45 percent below 2010 levels by 2030 and 100 percent by 2050, in order to avoid the impacts. (H.RES.1145)
Grid and Power Markets
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission approved settlements of over $83 million in civil penalties and disgorgement of over $66 million in unjust profits during fiscal year 2018, according to the Office of Enforcement’s twelfth annual report issued on Nov. 15. The report underscores agency action in the areas of fraud and market manipulation, violations of reliability standards, anticompetitive behavior, and conduct that threatens the transparency of regulated markets. The office completed 14 audits of oil pipeline, public utility, and natural gas companies providing 209 recommendations for corrective measures and recovering about $185 million. The Analytics and Surveillance division’s natural gas surveillance screens produced about 7,719 alerts. The division reviewed 84 electric surveillance screens, as well as hourly and intra-hour sub-screens, and reports for over 36,000 hub and pricing nodes within the six grid operators’ regions.
FirstEnergy Corp.’s subsidiaries reached a settlement that would allow the companies to flow back $900 million in savings from the federal tax cut law that lowered the corporate income tax rate to 21 percent from 35 percent. The company said that the tax savings would be credited through a new mechanism reconciled annually, and that treatment of savings not reflected in riders will be effective Jan. 1, 2018 continuing until rate changes are implemented in the next base rate case. The settlement filed with the Ohio Public Utilities Commission on Nov. 9 would allow the company to invest over $500 million to modernize the grid including the installation of 700,000 smart meters and establishing time-varying rates. The company said that the grid modernization efforts are consistent with Ohio’s PowerForward initiative, which seeks to foster innovation that allows for an enhanced experience for customers. The utilities are Ohio Edison Company, The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, and The Toledo Edison Company.
The U.S. Energy Department announced $98 million in funding for 40 new projects as part of the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy’s open funding opportunity to spur innovative technologies that can transform the energy system, according to a Nov. 15 press release. The projects, located in 21 states, cover a broad range of technologies in multiple areas including transportation, electricity generation and delivery, and energy efficiency. About 43 percent of the projects will be led by universities, 35 percent by small businesses, and the remainder by large businesses, non-profits, or federally-funded research centers. On Nov. 14, the agency also announced up to $7.5 million — funded through the Office of Electricity — for novel transformer designs that allow for more flexibility and enhance the resiliency of the grid. The agency said that many large transformers are nearing or surpassing their design lives, opening an opportunity for technologies that can add new capabilities to the grid and boost domestic manufacturing.
The U.S. Energy Department selected 11 projects located across six states for cost-shared research and development of advanced nuclear technologies, according to a Nov. 13 press release. The projects, valued at about $25 million, make the third batch of recipients under the department’s advanced nuclear technology funding opportunity. The first round provided $60 million and the second $20 million, bringing the total of the three rounds to $98 million. Quarterly selection processes will occur over the next four years. The funding covers three areas namely, nuclear demonstration readiness projects, advanced reactor development projects, and regulatory assistance grants. Industry-led teams including participants from federal agencies, public and private labs, and educational institutions will help advance the nation’s commercial nuclear capability. The department also selected five U.S. companies for technology development voucher awards under the Gateway for Accelerated Innovation in Nuclear or GAIN initiative, which seeks to enable the industrial community to commercialize new or advanced nuclear technologies.
Fossil Fuels and Pipelines
The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission staff issued a draft environmental assessment for the Gulf LNG Liquefaction Project finding that the proposal would result in some adverse environmental impacts, which would be reduced to less than significant levels, according to a Nov. 15 announcement. The staff said it has developed other site-specific mitigation measures that will further lower the environmental impact from the project construction. The project, proposed by Gulf LNG Liquefaction Company LLC, Gulf LNG Energy LLC, and Gulf LNG Pipeline LLC, would add natural gas liquefaction and export capabilities to the existing Gulf LNG Terminal in Jackson County, Mississippi. The companies are each owned by Gulf LNG Holdings Group LLC, which is owned 50 percent by Southern Gulf LNG Company LLC, a subsidiary of Kinder Morgan Inc. and operator of the LNG terminal; 30 percent by Thunderbird LNG LLC; and the remainder by subsidiaries of Arc Logistics Partners LP and Lightfoot Capital Partners LP. Thunderbird is partially owned by GSO Capital Partners, a subsidiary of The Blackstone Group LP. Comments on the draft are due by Jan. 7, 2019.
The U.S. Interior Department’s activities in fiscal year 2017 supported $292 billion in economic output, an increase of $400 million from the prior year due to regulatory reforms, increased energy production, and expanded access on public lands, according the agency’s economic report issued on Nov. 14. The report highlighted that nationally the number of onshore oil and gas wells grew by almost 85 percent, notably in Colorado, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. On the renewables side, only hydroelectric generation rose to 43.9 from 36.7 terawatt hours, while wind, solar, and geothermal production on public lands dropped to zero over the period. Federal energy disbursements rose by nearly $1 billion, with an estimated $134 billion in economic output from oil, gas, and coal produced from federal lands and waters, the report said. The agency estimated $3.8 billion in savings to the economy over time thanks to a 50 percent reduction in its semi-annual regulatory agenda and 21 deregulatory actions.
The share of renewable diesel in California’s fuel market has increased since the launch of the low-carbon fuel standard in 2011, accounting for 10.1 percent of the total diesel supply in the second quarter of this year, according to a Nov. 13 report from the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The agency attributed the growth to the ability of renewable diesel to generate a larger number of credits required to comply with the standard because it has some of the largest lifecycle greenhouse gas reductions compared to other fuels. The total volume of credits associated with renewable diesel exceeded that of fuel ethanol for the first time in 2018, reaching about 870,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, the agency said. The prices for the credits have increased, averaging $164 per metric ton this year, up from $89 last year. Although exports from Singapore remain significant, the agency said that planned production capacity additions can boost the share of domestic renewable diesel in the California market. The standard was set to incrementally decrease the carbon intensity – an estimate of a fuel’s lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions – in a bid to foster low-carbon transportation fuels. In September, the California Air Resources Board extended the standard, mandating a 20 percent cut in the carbon intensity by 2030, compared with the current requirement of 10 percent by 2020.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on Nov. 13 announced the Cleaner Trucks Initiative aimed to lower nitrogen oxide emissions from heavy-duty trucks. The agency said the initiative will include rulemaking to update standards that were revised in 2001, and intends to issue a proposed rule in early 2020. The initiative will also streamline compliance and certification requirements, with a deregulatory focus on several areas such as onboard diagnostic requirements, advanced technologies for compliance, and annual recertification. Although U.S. nitrogen dioxide emissions, which contributes to smog and particulate matter pollution, dropped by more than 40 percent from 2007 to 2017, the agency emphasized the need for more reductions, saying that revisions will cut mobile source emissions significantly and facilitate attainment of ozone and particulate matter standards. Heavy-duty trucks are expected to account from one-third of the emissions in the transportation sector in 2025.